Last Updated on: February 10, 2024
When you purchase a stranded electrical wire and then compare it to the speaker wire, you may not notice the difference; after all, they share several similarities.
They are two types of wires that vary in design and have different functions. Fortunately, you can use a speaker wire as an electrical wire and vice versa. Therefore, if you want to know the difference between speaker wire vs. electrical wire, please read on…
Main Differences Between Speaker Wire Vs. Electrical Wire
The main differences between speaker wire vs. electrical wire are:
- Speaker wires are easy to separate and even strip when using, whereas stranded electrical wires are not easy to separate, while the solid ones are impossible to separate.
- Speaker wire comes with a pair of conductors, whereas electric wire may or may not be pair, and some even come with a third conductor.
- Speaker wires are usually marked with some polarity indicators, whereas the electrical wires are not; after all, the AC wiring is non-polarized.
The Difference Between Speaker Wire And Electrical Wire
Generally, speaker and electric wires are used for conducting mechanic and electric signals. Moreover, they connect the output to inputs, use insulation, and are made of metals. With these many similarities, there is no obvious difference between the speaker and electrical cables.
Electrical cables for certain purposes can be quite different from some speaker wires.
The differences between electric wires can be due to the conducting material, voltage ratings, and dissimilar American wire gauge ratings.
For example, the stranded wire used for a USB connection isn’t thick enough to transport the electric signal of the vehicle’s audio system.
What Is An Electrical Wire?
Electric wires are either solid or stranded wires made from copper or aluminum.
The solid wire is sturdy, single pieces of wire, while the stranded wire is composed of numerous small wire strands wound or woven together to create a thick wire.
These wires are normally insulated to help prevent shock and short circuits. There are several electric wires in the market, with the most common ones being:
Nonmetallic (NM) cable
The NM wires are unique types of electrical cable normally used in interior wiring. This cable comes with a flat kind of insulation; after all, it does run through the walls and along the floor cavities. It runs from the mains to the lighting fixtures and wall outlets all over the house.
Its gauge ranges between 6 and 14, with each option ideal for a particular ampere circuit.
Remember, the smaller the gauge, the larger its amperes and the thicker the wire. This cable is made up of ground wire, neutral insulated wire, and hot insulated wire.
Underground Feeder (UF) Cables
The UF wire is a kind of non-metallic wire that’s ideal for wiring through a wet place. Like most wires, it is composed of bare earth wire, insulated neutral and hot wire, which is insulated by a plastic cover.
Low Voltage Wire
The Low voltage wire is ideal for low-voltage circuits. This electrical wire carries a maximum of 50 volts at any given time.
They are the best option for wiring many appliances, including lights, thermostats, speaker power, bells, and sprinklers; they can make a great lamp cord.
These wires are normally insulated and come in pairs, with one being the neutral shielded cable and the other the hot wire. And to prevent shock circuiting, they are normally shielded.
Another exceptional electrical wire that’s made up of shielded solid wire and surrounded by braided wire is the coaxial cable. An external wire usually covers these wires. The coaxial cable is ideal for connecting decoders to aerial and satellite dishes.
What Is A Speaker Wire?
Unlike the electrical wire, the speaker cables are low voltage options that rarely cause shock. Their main function is linking a sound source like a receiver or amplifier to a speaker. But like most wires, speaker wires are insulated to help prevent short circuits.
The stranded speaker wires come in 2 insulated wires, each color-coded. One is for the right channel, while the other insulated cable is for the left channel. These two speaker wires are then covered using outer plastic.
Generally, a speaker wire comes as oxygen-free copper wire, copper-clad aluminum, silver wire, or copper wire.
The most common type of cable used for speakers is the copper wires; they’re low resistance and affordable. Unfortunately, copper speaker wires wire prone to oxidation; therefore, manufacturers always insulate them to prevent oxidation.
The silver speaker cable is the best option for conducting sound signals; after all, it is low resistance. Unfortunately, silver wires are quite costly, thanks to the high mining costs.
On the other hand, the copper-clad aluminum wires are composed of aluminum with a copper layer. The copper-clad aluminum wire is light and affordable, but it has high resistance than copper cables.
Oxygen-free copper is more costly than pure copper wires as it lacks impurities.
Speaker wires vary in thickness ranging between 12 and 18 wire gauges. The thinner wires are ideal for high impedance systems and short speaker wire runs, while the thicker speaker wire is ideal for low impedance systems and longer runs.
Can You Replace Your Vehicle’s Speaker Wires With Electric Wire?
Yes, a regular electric wire can replace the speaker wire in your car. It can boost gauge measurements and similar construction configurations. When done correctly, an electric cable can offer an even better audio result than a regular speaker wire.
When replacing the normal speaker wire with electrical wire, you should consider the following:
- Always select copper cables as they offer great conductivity and are affordable. A pure copper wire can help you preserve the integrity of the sound produced by your speakers. But if the budget is not a problem, you should go for silver wires.
- Pick an electrical wire whose gauge ranges between 12 and 14 for an extended length and low impedance. For shorter runs, you need a thin electric wire with high impedance with a speaker wire gauge of 16 or 18.
Pro Auto Thought: Complement this post with a relevant article we wrote about DIY wiring — How To Wire A Car Stereo Without A Harness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Speaker Wire Be Used As An Electrical Wire?
Yes, since they’re both used for electrical connections, you can replace your electrical cable with a speaker wire. Unfortunately, speaker wires can only be used in a low current system like a thermostat, landscape lighting, doorbells, and home security sensors.
A speaker wire that can be used as an electric cable is a great conductor of heat and is made of copper. Plus, they’re graded the same way as their electric counterparts.
Can I Use A Speaker Cable For 12 Volts of Power?
A speaker wire carries more than just a sound signal — it can also be used in a low-voltage electric circuit. Therefore, you can use it for a 12v power circuit but make sure you know more about wiring color coding before using a speaker cable.
Can Speaker Cables Cause Fire?
When dealing with electrical appliances, there is always a potential for fire, but the threat is quite low with speaker cables. After all, the power involved is quite low. The amplifiers have a protection circuit that shuts them down in case of a short circuit.
Despite serving the same purpose, electric and speaker wires are two different wires with dissimilar functions. But this doesn’t mean you can’t use an electric wire as a speaker cable and vice versa. But when using a speaker wire as an electric cable, you have to monitor the voltage that will pass through it; after all, it is designed for low-voltage circuits.